At IA, you’ll normally take three experimental subjects and a Maths option. There are four Maths courses, and which one you take will depend on your background in the subject. All Natscis have to study some Maths, so even if you’re expecting to concentrate on Biological subjects, I’m afraid there’s no escaping it.
Each 1A experimental subject involves, per week:
- Three one-hour lectures
- Between two and four hours of practical work
- A one-hour supervision
Including Maths, this gives you twelve hours of lectures, four hours of supervisions and around ten hours of practical work a week. For the unlucky ones this will involve 9 am lectures on Saturday mornings.
To the vast majority of you lectures will be a whole new learning format; you will be in a room with as many as a a few hundred other students and you may find it easy to get distracted at first. The lecturer will cover material very quickly and there isn’t the opportunity to ask them to go through something again. One tip is to concentrate on the lecturer as if he or she is explaining the material only to you. Some people find it helpful to sit nearer the front so people in the rows in front of you aren’t a distraction. But with many of these things it all about getting used to this new way of learning and remember that everyone else will be in the same boat.
Lectures cover the basic course material, whilst practicals tend to reinforce concepts discussed in the lectures and also teach experimental skills. Make the most of your practical time and ensure that you understand what is really going on, it’s all too easy to follow the instructions given and not really think about the reasons behind the steps. The demonstrators are there to help you so make sure you ask them as many questions as you like throughout the practical, although some may be evasive about the answers to ‘make you think’. For every subject you take a supervision each week gives you the chance to ask questions about things you don’t understand, and provides you with the opportunity for a more in-depth discussion of particular topics.